Boxing: Promoters link up for TV deal

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The Independent Online
THREE of Britain's top promoters have joined forces for a series of Saturday night fights to be screened on ITV in competition to the BBC's 'Match of the Day'.

The seven-fight, seven-figure contract brings together Barry Hearn, Frank Warren and Barney Eastwood - a combination the politics of the sport would have made most unlikely in the past.

But as Hearn said: 'Commonsense even has to come through in boxing eventually. In the not too distant future we could be having 26 fights a year. We'll be going into the market place in a powerful position, able to compete with France and Italy and slaughter the Americans.

'Forget football's Premier League, the Saturday night fights have arrived.' Warren said: 'There is a featherweight picture emerging which will leave us with one champion, and that can only be good for British boxing.'

The Saturday sequence begins on 30 January with Herbie Hide's World Boxing Council international heavyweight title defence against Danny Stonewalker, topping a Brentwood bill that also includes the Mickey Hughes-Lloyd Honeyghan Commonwealth light- middleweight championship fight.

A week later in Newcastle, John Davison will challenge Ruben Palacio for the World Boxing Organisation's featherweight title. Then, on 27 February, Pat Barrett, who lost a WBO challenge to Manning Galloway, will tackle the Eastwood-managed Crisanto Espana for his World Boxing Association welterweight crown.

Paul Hodkinson, Liverpool's WBC featherweight champion, will defend against Ricardo Cepeda on 3 February at London's Olympia - the only Wednesday fight in the deal.

Chris Eubank makes another defence of his WBO super-middleweight title on 20 February, while the former WBO featherweight champion, Colin McMillan, will make his comeback in a non-title appearance.

The series culminates on 6 March with Nigel Benn's second defence of the WBC super-middleweight title in Glasgow.

Lennox Lewis's manager, Frank Maloney, is mapping out a three- fight programme for the new World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, which could culminate in an all-British title fight with Frank Bruno. Riddick Bowe is considering a defence in Las Vegas on 6 February against the Italian ex-European champion, Francisco Damiani.